Sunday, March 26, 2023

Back To The Farm

 As I mentioned in the last post Grandpa loved his horses. Because we now lived in a mechanized age the horses did not have to pull plows or hard labor like that. Most of the time they were used to bring the cows back from the pasture for milking.

The horses were also for enjoyment. We learned to ride on the farm. Most of us grandchildren learned on Bird. Bird was unusual because she was known to be cantankerous. But she could tell when we were just children and she was gentle and patient with us.

Bird was born the same year as my mother so she was not young. Still she had the energy and sense of humor to play tricks on older riders. One of her favorites was to swell her stomach as the cinch was being tightened to hold the saddle securely. Once the rider was in the saddle Bird would breathe normally. Then on the way to the pasture she would purposely run under a low-hanging branch causing the rider to lean to the side to prevent being whomped in the face. The saddle would shift and the rider would end up on the ground. She only did this to experienced riders.

We loved it when we were allowed to bring in the cattle. It meant a long ride on the horse. We could also go faster than the pleasant stroll around the corrall.  What a great ride.

Someone owned an old Model A Ford car. If it were raining my uncles preferred taking the car to get the cows so they (my uncles) would not get all wet. If they were in the mood they would let us ride along. My Uncle Donnie was a bit of a daredevil and drove very fast.

One day we were coming in after driving the cars and Donnie was going too fast. We went around the corner on two wheels. Of course we loved it. Today I wonder how any of us made it to adulthood.

Behind the farmhouse was a windbreak of cedar trees. Cedar trees' lower branches are close to the ground. We would each choose a tree to make a house. It was even better than the manure pile.

In front of the house was a mulberry bush. Grandpa hated the mulberry trees that grew everywhere. When a mulberry tree grew in the yard he cut it down. Then to make sure it would not grow back he chopped the stump into a million pieces. As if that was not enough he covered it with lye to kill the roots. Eventually it grew back as a bush and gave us nice large juicy mulberries. 

There were mulberry trees all over the farm. We happily climbed the trees and picked as many as possible. We made whipped cream and covered the berries for a luscious treat.

There were other trees as well. My favorite was the black walnut tree at one corner of the dogleg that led to the pasture. We gathered them to use especially at Christmastime.

Grandpa had lots of farm equipment. We were not allowed to ride on any of it for safety reasons. We could play on some of it when it was not being used. We had some glorious imaginary races on the tractors.

Grandma was the best cook I knew. She used an old wood stove. Her water came from a pump outside. Every morning she baked fresh bread. If she made pancakes for breakfast she made her own syrup. I do not even like pancakes but I always hoped for leftovers so we could cover them in sugar and roll them like cigars. Great treat for the middle of the morning.

After milking was finished for the day all the pails were brought into the kitchen. The separator was made ready. Milk was poured into the separator. We watched with excitement as the cream was separated from the milk. If we were lucky we could catch a bit of cream on a slice of Grandma's bread. After spreading the cream evenly we sprinkled sugar over the top. It was the best treat ever.

Once again it is too long and I have so much more to tell. Until next time.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Being On The Farm

 I had my own amusement park when I was a child. It was my grandparents' farm. Want to know more? Read on.

In one outbuilding Grandpa kept small equipment. Scythes, axes, rakes, shovels, hoes and things like that hung on the walls. Of course I was not allowed to mess with those. But they needed to be kept sharp and Grandpa had a sharpening wheel for that. It was a giant wheel that was approximately 3 1/2 feet in diameter set so it could turn on a contraption much like a bicycle. I would pretend to ride that thing for hours. I rode all over the world in that little shed.

I loved the barn. On one side was the tack for the horses. Bridles and saddles were safely hung in their places on the walls. All sorts of other equipment for the horses were stored there. Grandpa loved his horses. Not much to play with in this room but it had ladder-type stairs that led to the second story. 

We called it the hay mow but I have since heard it as the loft. That is where bales of hay are stored. The hay is used to feed the livestock and needed to be dry. Sometimes small amounts of grain like corn or wheat were kept there too. We would sit on the bales and tell stories or even just read for a while. Sometimes we would re-arrange the bales and make forts or houses to play in.

Big doors at the front of the hay mow opened over the pen the cows came to before entering their part of the barn to be milked. Hanging in the center of the door was a pulley with a long rope looped through it. Grandpa and my uncles used it to pull the bales of hay up for storage. I was not allowed near the rope. Every once in a while I would watch with envy as an uncle would hold onto the rope and lower himself from the hay mow.

The other half of the barn was the milking area. No machine milking on the farm. Grandpa and my uncles did it. This part of the barn was immaculate. Grandpa sold most of the milk. The floor in this part of the barn was concrete. (Easy to clean.) There was a trough behind the cows who were inconsiderate enough to eliminate themselves while in milking position.  The cows' heads were moved into stanchions and a board moved so they were unable to back out until released

We were not allowed close to the cows because they tend to be a bit testy while being milked. Instead we stood against the far wall to watch. If Grandpa or an uncle was in the mood they would squirt a stream of milk our way for us to catch in our mouths. It was exciting.

The pen the animals came to before milking had a big water trough. It held enough water for us to wade in on hot days. We had to be careful because there were sharp edges of rust and other buildup from age. At one end of the trough was the windmill. It was used to pump water into the trough. There is an art to controlling the windmill to protect it from high winds and to direct it so wind would provide the optimal amount of energy to make the pump work.

At one corner of the pen was a huge manure pile. Manure was used as fertilizer so it was saved. This pile had been there for a long time. We decided to make use of it. We dug out a cave that we used for a playhouse. It was cool in the summer and warm in the winter. After some time manure no longer stinks. It was a fun place to play.

This is quite long so I will regale you of more glories of the farm next time.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Moving On

Spring is coming. Even though we are scheduled for 3 to 12 inches of snow tomorrow the signs of spring are showing.

You can hear the geese flying overhead as they migrate north. On my way to join my sister-in-law for lunch today I saw hundreds of water birds resting on the Big Sioux River.

Late at night the coyotes are extremely vocal. They have a unique howl. If you were to hear it you would say, "That is a coyote."

Then on my way home I saw turkey vultures circling overhead. It is early in the year for them to be here but here they are. And there seems to be a larger number of them than we had last year.

My son even saw a moth when he let the dog out this evening.

So far the trees are not being fooled. No spring buds yet. That will be the final sign. Until then I will be content to watch the huge flocks of birds flying north.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Who Do You Come From?


Northwestern European                                    84.6%

      • French and German                          45.3%
      • North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
        Canton of Bern, Switzerland
        +2 regions
      • Central Denmark Region, Denmark
        Nordland, Norway
        +4 regions
      • Greater London, United Kingdom
        County Limerick, Ireland
        +14 regions
    • Masovian Voivodeship, Poland
      Czech Republic
      +3 regions
Unassigned                                                0.1%

This is the result of my DNA test. I find it informative because there are nationalities that I did not know were a part of my heritage.
Most of my grandparents knew of the German. One of my grandmothers was born in Denmark. 
The Irish have a saying that you are what you come from. It looks like I am really mixed up.      
If you have not had a search done I recommend it. I also must tell you that as they refine their methods you may find some differences. The company will let you know if there are updates.
It has been fun comparing with family members to see the similarities and differences.
Have you done yours? Were there any surprises?